Hari had been right. Within my first week at the church he was sent east on a Blood Hunt. I spent that first week being shown around the church and introduced to various people. I had yet to meet any of the High Chair or the High Speaker. Though I was introduced to Speaker Diana Kabira, a comely middle aged women who served as Stewardess of the High Church. She gave me a tour and introduced me to important Speakers, Blood Hunters mainly, that were currently at the High Church.
During that first week I met with Speaker Oen Artella the head of the Blood Hunters of the church. He was an older man past his hunting years. He had stern brown eyes and platinum grey hair. He was also a little on the heavy side. During my meeting with him he assigned me to Speaker Hexla Dorian, an experienced Blood Hunter by his description. Hexla was as devote a women of the faith as you can find. And Hemomancy to her was a worse sin than murder.
She paid me little attention during those two months at the church, so I could come and go as I pleased. It didn’t take me long to find the training yards on the second tier where Glren and Speaker alike trained with weapons.
Winter was more of a force here north of Ruahden, and at the end of my time at the Church I was finishing up helping the Glren clear snow from the yards. The Quatane made the task go by much quicker, yet I was the only Speaker helping.
“Ready to get beat again, Blood Hunter?” The young lieutenant who had been put in charge of the training yards taunted me as he tossed me a blunt blade.
Jamison Ending was twenty five years old and a better swords man than most. I smiled and grabbed the blade. I brushed snow off my Blood Hunter robes and took position. It had been a couple weeks sense I’d bothered changing into the bulky padded armor that most trained in. My mail would provide enough protection and I trusted Jamison to not crush my skull. Jamison in his Glren Plate took the offensive.
His first attack was a low slash that I gently checked. His second came high on the left side of my face. Again I parried it easily. I upped the tempo and went on the offensive. Raining blows on him from all sides. He parried them grinning, then countered with a thrust at my mid-section that I didn’t bother parrying. I swiftly side stepped and the thrust drifted by. I came down on his plate gloved hand with the pummel of my sword. He grunted and dropped the weapon. A swift movement of my blade and I gently tapped Jamison’s neck.
“Ruah damn you, that thrust would have been the end of anyone else.” Jamison said picking up his blade. “Another bout?”
Despite Jamison’s proficiency with the sword, I had started to win at times. His swordsmanship was much more technical than mine. But I’d improved to the point where I could at times handle his faints and quick strikes well enough to beat him with my athleticism. I’d land quick strikes in openings faster than he could react. Still, beating him was rare. “You going to win this one?” I asked tauntingly.
“Definitely, why would I let you win again?” He said smiling broadly.
We were about to engage when I heard a voice. “Speaker Skagora!” I turned to see Hexla approaching us. Time and her hunts had not been kind to her. Her face was scarred and weather worn, and her hair was a faded brown. She kept it short and held back from her face. She was also not an imposing physical specimen. She stood just over five feet. She also seemed to be in a permanent sour mood.
“Speaker Dorian?” I asked resting the blunt sword resting on my shoulder.
“The High Speaker has called for us.” She looked at me with disapproval. She always seemed to look at me that way. “He’s waiting in the staging room in the Spire with Speaker Artella.”
“Alright,” I tossed my training sword to Jamison. “Rain check, Jay.”
“Good luck.” He said grimly.
Hexla and I made our way up to the twelfth terrace of the High Church. Each was separated by a wall and gate. Though the place was not technically a fortress, it was very close to being a great one. The other faces of Ruah’s Mount were too steep to march an army up, and if it was attempted they would be decimated by defenders that would be positioned above. A small group of climbers may be able to scale the cliffs on the other faces, and perhaps sneak into the Church, but that was a very weak chance. Someone assaulting the church would likely go for a frontal assault despite the thirty-foot tall walls and, taller towers and strong gates that ringed each level. Much of this was irrelevant however, as an assault on the High Church had never been attempted at this point.
Hexla spoke as we climbed to the twelfth tier. “Do not speak to the High Speaker, or any other ranking Speaker with him, unless they address you. You are my subordinate.” She said coldly.
Ruah‘s spire was a massive tower, plated in gold leaf, with many windows all stained glass. The most beautiful structure in Ruaheon by far. Unfortunately the staging room was on the third floor so Hexla decided that we should take the stairs instead of the lift that ran up the middle of Ruah’s Spire. Walking through the structure I got a look at how much more ornate the furnishings for this church were compared to its counterpart in Ruahden. Gold seemed to trim everything that could be trimmed, and the stone walls and floors were painted in the warm colors of sunrise.
I knew we were about to reach the High Speaker before Hexla warned me. An escort of twenty Glren waited outside of the large arched doorway which I assumed led into the staging room. The one in charge recognized Hexla and nodded us through. The room was large with a square table in the center, a map of northern and eastern Ruaheon and Jahzn spread out on it. It had ample seats but its four occupants didn’t seem like they were about to use them. The one person I recognized was Speaker Artella who saw us and gestured for us to stand by him near the table.
I pinned the High Speaker before he acknowledged us. He was tall and garbed in the golden robes of his rank. The two other Speakers in the room I was sure were members of the High Chair, as their Speaker robes were trimmed generously in gold.
“I receive more reports of Hemomancers coming into Ruaheon weekly.” The High Speaker looked up from the map and eyed Speaker Artella on the opposite side of the table. He had grey eyes, my grey eyes. If I had doubted my mother’s story before, I did not now. Our eyes were the same right down to the shape. My jaw line was a perfect replica of his, our hair was not exactly the same color, his was starting to grey and mine was redder, but we both had a form of dark auburn hair. And he was tall, as tall I was. He was also lean and looked strong, he was probably of an age with Hari. “Speaker Artella, your Blood Hunters have been ineffective.”
Speaker Artella swallowed. “High Speaker, there are not enough of us; Hemomancers are not easy prey, if we had more Glren…”
“You have the Glren at your disposal Speaker; maybe I should give this responsibility to them instead of your supposed Blood Hunters,” The High Speaker said. Artella looked nervous. “Or maybe I should send you out, Speaker Atique still hunts. If I am correct with his last hunt he doubled your number of successful hunts.” Speaker Artella paled. “You look scared Speaker, don’t worry you’ve let age hit you hard, you would be not use to us in the field.”
The High Speaker then turned his attention to the other Speakers. “Speaker Weibke, what was Jahzn’s response?”
“The same, they claim they’re not responsible for who we let through our border.” Speaker Weibke was a lean man of average height. He had thick graying black hair and a platinum beard.
“Zabana Goldenend,” he addressed the female speaker that stood at his side. She was young to be a Speaker of the High Chair, and pretty with her typical Goldenend blond hair. Her eyes were brown, and her lips were full. I’d call her well-shaped not lean. Definitely an attractive women. The High Speaker continued. “What from the Hongshi?”
“The Black Faction has won five of their seven seats, and it looks like they will be able to install two of their choosing into the remaining, as the Reds have fled the city. Jahzn is in the Black’s hands now.” Speaker Zabana Goldenend explained.
“Not surprising,” The High Speaker said. “They bicker in their capital, and ignore our demands. Next year it will be the Redss back in charge, and they’re response will be the same.”
“High Speaker…” Speaker Artella tried to bring attention to us.
“I saw them,” The High Speaker interrupted. His attention turned towards us, primarily me. “Speaker Demetrius Skagora, if I am not mistaken. I’m High Speaker Mikkel Andrews, formerly of House Andrews of Norven, now of the High Church of Ruah the son of the Creator. Though I hope you were sharp enough to pick that up by now.” He gave me a thorough look and his eyes narrowed some. If he had noticed the same things I had he did not speak of them. He then turned to Hexla. “Speaker Dorian, I’m sending you Hunting. There are Hemomancers making their home in the Rosswood. I need you to bring me back their tongues. Speaker Artella has already picked three Glren to accompany you. You will travel to Ross and begin your search there.”
Hexla nodded. “Who are the Glren?”
Speaker Artella spoke. “Orion Sile, I believe you have hunted with him before,” Hexla nodded. “Luke Ryu, He’s as good a fighter as the Glren have, you may know him.”
“I do,” Hexla explained. “And the third.”
“Abalyn Fadella, She’s young but smart she’ll need the experience of this hunt.” Speaker Artella finished.
Hexla scowled. “A green Glren and this boy Speaker, Speaker Artella…”
“Abalyn isn’t exactly green, she’s just twenty but she was involved with Flora, and she is a Glren.” Flora was the city south of and owned by the High Church. I didn’t know what being involved with Flora meant. “And as for Speaker Skagora, he is…” Speaker Artella seemed to be struggling to finish his sentence.
“The next Tonajuar Marquette, if Speaker Atique is to be believed.” Speaker Zabana Goldenend said with a smile for me. “My Uncle also thinks highly of the boy, he did get raised to Speaker in just three years at the Church, the Glren even say good things about his ability with a blade. You’d do well to make use of him Speaker Dorian.”
Hexla still scowled but she didn’t complain any further. High Speaker Andrews spoke. “If that is all, then you two may take your leave to make preparations. You will wake early tomorrow to attend to your prayers before you depart. Your Glren will be waiting.”
Tyler W. Golec